Friday, April 30, 2004

And with that, I say goodbye for another year to Poetry Month.
Since it's too tempting to avoid completely - I'm sure I'll post something here every now and again. Nothing regular, though. I'll just link from my other, more regularly updated site.

I hope that you enjoyed this as much as I did. It's a wonderful rite of spring that brings me back to life both mentally and physically after a long, cold, dark winter.

Until next year.
Since I am so loathe to leave April, I am leaving you with three poems by a favorite writer of mine: Michael Ondaatje. Ondaatje is Ceylonese, born and raised in Sri Lanka. Moved to England to attend school, currently lives in Toronto, ON, Canada. Most will know of him from his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient.

Sweet Like a Crow

"The Sinhalese are beyond a doubt one of the least musical
people in the world. It would be quite impossible to have
less sense of pitch, line, or rhythm."
- Paul Bowles

Your voice sounds like a scorpion being pushed
through a glass tube
like someone has just trod on a peacock
like wind howling in a coconut
like a rusty bible, like someone pulling barbed wire
across a stone courtyard, like a pig drowning,
a vattacka being fried
a bone shaking hands
a frog singing at Carnegie Hall.
Like a crow swimming in milk,
like a nose being hit by a mango
like the crowd at the Royal-Thornian match,
a womb full of twins, a pariah dog
with a magpie in its mouth
like the midnight jet from Casablanca
like Air Pakistan curry,
a typewriter on fire, like a spirit in the gas
which cooks your dinner, like a hundred
pappadans being crunched, like someone
uselessly trying to light 3 Roses matches in a dark room,
the clicking sound of a reef when you put your head into the sea,
a dolphin reciting epic poetry to a sleepy audience,
the sound of a fan when someone throws brinjals at it,
like pineapples being sliced in the Pettah market
like betel juice hitting a butterfly in mid-air
like a whole village running naked onto the street
and tearing their sarongs, like an angry family
pushing a jeep out of the mud, like dirt on the needle,
like 8 sharks being carried on the back of a bicycle
like 3 old ladies locked in the lavatory
like the sound I heard when having an afternoon sleep
and someone walked through my room in ankle bracelets.


The Cinnamon Peeler

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
And leave the yellow bark dust
On your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
You could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to you hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
--your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
you climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
Peeler's wife. Smell me.


Elimination Dance

"Nothing I'd read had prepared me for a body this unfair"

"Till we are roten, kan we not be rypen"

Those who are allergic to the sea

Those who have resisted depravity

Men who shave off beards in stages, pausing to take photographs

American rock stars who wear Toronto Maple Leaf hockey sweaters

Those who (while visiting a foreign country) have lost the end of a Q tip in their ear and have been unable to explain their problem

Gentlemen who have placed a microphone beside a naked woman's stomach after lunch and later, after slowing down the sound considerably, have sold these noises on the open market as whale songs

All actors and poets who spit into the first row while they perform

Men who fear to use an electric lawn-mower feeling they could drowse off and be dragged by it into a swimming pool

Any dinner guest who has consumed the host's missing contact lens along with the dessert

Any person who has had the following dream. You are in a subway station of a major city. At the far end you see a coffee machine. You put in two coins. The Holy Grail drops down. Then blood pours into the chalice

Any person who has lost a urine sample in the mail

All those belle-lettrists who feel that should have been 'an urine sample'

Anyone who has had to step into an elevator with all of the Irish Rovers

Those who have filled in a bilingual and confidential pig survey from Statistics Canada. (Une enquete sur les porcs, strictement confidentielle)

Those who have written to the age old brotherhood of Rosicrucians for a free copy of their book The Mastery of Life in order to release the inner conciousness and to experience (in the privacy of the home) momentary flights of the soul

Those who have accidentally stapled themselves

Anyone who has been penetrated by a mountie

Any university professor who has danced with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Jean Genet

Those who have unintentionally locked themselves within a sleeping bag at a camping goods store

Any woman whose i.u.d. has set off an alarm system at the airport

Those who, after a swim, find the sensation of water dribbling out of their ears erotic

Men who have never touched a whippet

Women who gave up the accordion because of pinched breasts

Those who have pissed out of the back of moving trucks

Those who have woken to find the wet footprints of a peacock across their kitchen floor

Anyone whose knees have been ruined as a result of performing sexual acts in elevators

Those who have so much as contemplated the possibility of creeping up to one's enemy with two Bic lighters, pressing simultaneously the butane switches - one into each nostril - and so gassing him to death

Literary critics who have swum the Hellespont

Anyone who has been hired as a 'professional beater' and frightened grouse in the direction of the Queen Mother

Any lover who has gone into a flower shop on Valentine's day and asked for clitoris when he meant clematis

Those who have come across their own telephone numbers underneath terse insults or compliments in the washroom of the Bay Street Bus Terminal

Those who have used the following techniques of seduction:

-small talk at a falconry convention

-entering a spa town disguised as Ford Madox Ford

-making erotic rotations of the pelvis, backstage, during the storm scene of King Lear

-underlining suggestive phrases in the prefaces of Joseph Conrad

Anyone who has testified as a character witness for a dog in a court of law

Any writer who has been photographed for the jacket of a book in one of the following poses: sitting in the back of a 1956 Dodge with two roosters; in a tuxedo with the Sydney Opera House in the distance; studying the vanishing point on a jar of Dutch Cleanser; against a gravestone with dramatic back lighting; with a false nose on; in the vicinity of Macchu Pichu; or sitting in a study and looking intensely at one's own book

The person who borrowed my Martin Beck thriller, read it in a sauna which melted the glue off the spine so the pages drifted to the floor, stapled them together and returned the book, thinking I wouldn't notice

Any person who has burst into tears at the Liquor Control Board

Anyone with pain

More on Ondaatje.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Of course, if I were to leave, those I love would learn to get by. My intellect tells me that this worry is silly and childish. My emotion says otherwise. I don't like the thought of my absence inflicting pain. Of creating holes in hearts. Of making me feel how I did when my grandmas died, when friends have passed away. Of course, there is the fear on my side of being torn from every one and every thing I'm attached to. (All life is suffering. Eschew all attachments.)

These thoughts have been coming to mind more lately with the events that transpired back home. Not productive to worry, but I still do very much.


Einmal wenn ich dich verlier,
wirst du schlafen können, ohne
dass ich wie eine Lindenkrone
mich verflüstre über dir?

Ohne dass ich hier wache und
Worte, beinah wie Augenlider,
auf deine Brüste, auf deine Glieder
niederlege, auf deinen Mund.

Ohne dass ich dich verschließ
und dich allein mit Deinem lasse
wie einen Garten mit einer Masse
von Melissen und Stern-Anis.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Slumber Song

Some day, if I should ever lose you,
will you be able then to go to sleep
without me softly whispering above you
like night air stirring in the linden tree?

Without my waking here and watching
and saying words as tender as eyelids
that come to rest weightlessly upon your breast,
upon your sleeping limbs, upon your lips?

Without my touching you and leaving you
alone with what is yours, like a summer garden
that is overflowing with masses
of melissa and star-anise?

-Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I really only know of Rabindranath Tagore through his collaboration with Satyajit Ray on some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful films I've ever seen. I did not realize that he was, in addition to being one of the founders of a modern, independent India, a Nobel Laureate.

These two excerpts from his collection Gitanjali bring to mind the Song of Solomon or works I've read by Rumi. I find this simple and pure expression of love for one's Father-Mother-Creator-Lord to be so comforting.

"Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This
frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with
fresh life.
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and
hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in
joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine.
Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill."

"When thou commandest me to sing, it seems that my heart would break
with pride; and I look to thy face, and tears come to my eyes.
All that is harsh and dissonant in my life melts into one sweet
harmony- and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird on its flight
across the sea.
I know thou takest pleasure in my singing. I know that only as a singer
I come before thy presence.
I touch by the edge of the far-spreading wing of my song thy feet which
I could never aspire to reach.
Drunk with joy of singing I forget myself and call thee friend who art
my Lord."

Take a look here for more of Tagore's poetry.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I just got my invitation to the annual employee recognition luncheon.
I don't want to appear ungrateful, but...

Alexandrian kings

The Alexandrians were gathered
to see Cleopatra's children,
Caesarion, and his little brothers,
Alexander and Ptolemy, whom for the first
time they lead out to the Gymnasium,
there to proclaim kings,
in front of the grand assembly of the soldiers.

Alexander -- they named him king
of Armenia, Media, and the Parthians.
Ptolemy -- they named him king
of Cilicia, Syria, and Phoenicia.
Caesarion stood more to the front,
dressed in rose-colored silk,
on his breast a bouquet of hyacinths,
his belt a double row of sapphires and amethysts,
his shoes fastened with white
ribbons embroidered with rose pearls.
Him they named more than the younger ones,
him they named King of Kings.

The Alexandrians of course understood
that those were theatrical words.

But the day was warm and poetic,
the sky was a light azure,
the Alexandrian Gymnasium was
a triumphant achievement of art,
the opulence of the courtiers was extraordinary,
Caesarion was full of grace and beauty
(son of Cleopatra, blood of the Lagidae);
and the Alexandrians rushed to the ceremony,
and got enthusiastic, and cheered
in greek, and egyptian, and some in hebrew,
enchanted by the beautiful spectacle --
although they full well knew what all these were worth,
what hollow words these kingships were.

-Constantine P. Cavafy

For more on this influential elsewhere but not well known here poet, take a look at this site. It's got a little biographical bit written by the poet himself, along with the original Greek and English translations of some of his poems. Here are a few of my favorites:

"Waiting for the Barbarians"

"The City"

"Nero's Term"

Monday, April 26, 2004

My friend Marcia has a poster from a Cape Cod art exhibition. I have stared at it for hours. Most transfixing for me is the citation by Pablo Neruda: "I need an ocean to teach me whatever it is I need to know - be it music or consciousness."

Wandering along the shore I often think - here is where my problems end. Beyond this, beyond me, nothing but expanse. Nothing but salt smell, waves waves waves, wind. I'm so small, we are all so small, nothing but this matters here. Somehow this helps.

maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

-e e cummings

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Very rough weekend. I am trying to remember the good right now.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Two from Lambeth:

An Answer to the Parson

Why of the sheep do you not learn peace?
Because I don't want you to shear my fleece.


Thou hast a lap full o fseed
And this is a fine country:
Why dost thou not cast thy seed
And live in it merrily?

Shall I cast it on the sand
And turn it into fruitful land?
For on no other ground
Can I sow my seed
Without tearing up
Some stinking weed.

-William Blake

Friday, April 23, 2004

From Pablo:

It's the immortal Shakespeare's birthday. (By tradition. Records show only his baptismal day and his birthday was guessed from that.) I can think of several great Sonnets that contain gloomy meditations on time and mortality and the poet's own aging. What some people think about on birthdays.

But Bebere wants something cheerier for this rainy day. Well, there are also many sonnets about beating time and mortality through the immortalization in verse. Usually the poem says that the beloved will survive in verse though the poet will be forgot. But of course the irony is that Shakespeare is universally famous now while even the identity of the beloved in the Sonnets is not certainly known. (Though perhaps the double irony is that if Shakespeare is known, it's almost entirely from his work -- the details of his life are scant and the autobiographical interpretations of the works are only conjectural.)

However Sonnet 74 is one where it's the poet himself who lives on in the verse. I really like the related sequence of four that ends with 74, especially 73, though the first three are of the gloomier type that we will not revisit today.

But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch's knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains.

Or one might say, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? More commentary.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Today, I leave the word to Harold, who found some interesting WWII artifacts:

Leo Marks Code Poems

World War II Code Poems from MI 5 :

These poems were memorized by spies and contained important code. Although they might be strange, they were easy to remember, and it was such an artistic way of delivering secret messages.

by Leo Marks

She spent her hours breast feeding flowers
Fearful of Rabies from the lips of babies
her terror of skin, and what shelters within
made her humor a tumor
malign and malignant
a figment and fragment of all that was stagnant
in the refuse bin of her unknown sin
at the end of her life
She ignored her food
and swallowed her knife

I search the pages, now blank
the drawers, now empty
the pictures, now faded
the rooms, now rooms
and nothing more
but could not find my life
I found only wood in the forest
only water in the sea
only sand on the beach
...I could not find me

The most famous poem can be found here with commentary

obituary link

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

On a smaller, narrower level, there might be unreturned love. In the grander scheme of things, there is more than enough to go around. It's just a matter of being attuned to it. Of 'being able to see the forest through the trees.'

This poem goes well with Whitman's Salut au Monde.

Sometimes With One I Love

Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I
effuse unreturn'd love,
But now I think there is no unreturn'd love, the pay is
certain one way or another,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)

-Walt Whitman

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Four days of the Yanks at Fenway. Four days glued to the radio. Three of four went to the Sox in this series! Vindication? Not quite. But it did feel pretty good.

Baseball and Writing

(Suggested by post-game broadcasts)

Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
You can never tell with either
how it will go
or what you will do;
generating excitement--
a fever in the victim--
pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
Victim in what category?
Owlman watching from the press box?
To whom does it apply?
Who is excited? Might it be I?

It's a pitcher's battle all the way--a duel--
a catcher's, as, with cruel
puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly
back to plate. (His spring
de-winged a bat swing.)
They have that killer instinct;
yet Elston--whose catching
arm has hurt them all with the bat--
when questioned, says, unenviously,
"I'm very satisfied. We won."
Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We";
robbed by a technicality.

When three players on a side play three positions
and modify conditions,
the massive run need not be everything.
"Going, going . . . " Is
it? Roger Maris
has it, running fast. You will
never see a finer catch. Well . . .
"Mickey, leaping like the devil"--why
gild it, although deer sounds better--
snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,
one-handing the souvenir-to-be
meant to be caught by you or me.

Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;
he could handle any missile.
He is no feather. "Strike! . . . Strike two!"
Fouled back. A blur.
It's gone. You would infer
that the bat had eyes.
He put the wood to that one.
Praised, Skowron says, "Thanks, Mel.
I think I helped a little bit."
All business, each, and modesty.
Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
In that galaxy of nine, say which
won the pennant? Each. It was he.

Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws
by Boyer, finesses in twos--
like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre-
with pick-off psychosis.
Pitching is a large subject.
Your arm, too true at first, can learn to
catch your corners--even trouble
Mickey Mantle. ("Grazed a Yankee!
My baby pitcher, Montejo!"
With some pedagogy,
you'll be tough, premature prodigy.)

They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees. Trying
indeed! The secret implying:
"I can stand here, bat held steady."
One may suit him;
none has hit him.
Imponderables smite him.
Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds
require food, rest, respite from ruffians. (Drat it!
Celebrity costs privacy!)
Cow's milk, "tiger's milk," soy milk, carrot juice,
brewer's yeast (high-potency--
concentrates presage victory

sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez--
deadly in a pinch. And "Yes,
it's work; I want you to bear down,
but enjoy it
while you're doing it."
Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,
if you have a rummage sale,
don't sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
Studded with stars in belt and crown,
the Stadium is an adastrium.
O flashing Orion,
your stars are muscled like the lion.

-Marianne Moore

Monday, April 19, 2004

Some of the harbinger of warm weather fruits are available at the grocery store. I've been getting drunk on strawberry juice daily now. And this is just a taste of what's to come...


A mouthful of language to swallow:
stretches of beach, sweet clinches,
breaches in walls, bleached branches;
britches hauled over haunches;
hunches leeches, wrenched teachers.

What English can do: ransack
the warmth that chuckles beneath
fuzzed surfaces, smooth velvet
richness, splashy juices.
I beseech you, peach,
clench me into the sweetness
of your reaches.

-Peter Davison

Sunday, April 18, 2004

This one is a long one. It definitely has a spring theme. What initially struck me, though, was the incredibly accurate description of an experience in my life: the slow slide into depression, the feeling of hopelessness in the dark, then the eventual rebirth. Her final admonishment is something that I take to heart every day. An awareness aid, so as to not slip back again.

Little side note here - the beginning verses sort of remind me of the 'existential angst' that Pascal talked about in his 'parie.' I laughed when this first was brought up to me (as a child, really, in school), but when I actually experienced what was only described and interpreted for me, ciel.


All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.

Over these things I could not see;
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.

But, sure, the sky is big, I said;
Miles and miles above my head;
So here upon my back I'll lie
And look my fill into the sky.
And so I looked, and, after all,
The sky was not so very tall.
The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,
And -- sure enough! -- I see the top!
The sky, I thought, is not so grand;
I 'most could touch it with my hand!
And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky.

I screamed, and -- lo! -- Infinity
Came down and settled over me;
Forced back my scream into my chest,
Bent back my arm upon my breast,
And, pressing of the Undefined
The definition on my mind,
Held up before my eyes a glass
Through which my shrinking sight did pass
Until it seemed I must behold
Immensity made manifold;
Whispered to me a word whose sound
Deafened the air for worlds around,
And brought unmuffled to my ears
The gossiping of friendly spheres,
The creaking of the tented sky,
The ticking of Eternity.

I saw and heard, and knew at last
The How and Why of all things, past,
And present, and forevermore.
The Universe, cleft to the core,
Lay open to my probing sense
That, sick'ning, I would fain pluck thence
But could not, -- nay! But needs must suck
At the great wound, and could not pluck
My lips away till I had drawn
All venom out. -- Ah, fearful pawn!
For my omniscience paid I toll
In infinite remorse of soul.

All sin was of my sinning, all
Atoning mine, and mine the gall
Of all regret. Mine was the weight
Of every brooded wrong, the hate
That stood behind each envious thrust,
Mine every greed, mine every lust.

And all the while for every grief,
Each suffering, I craved relief
With individual desire, --
Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire
About a thousand people crawl;
Perished with each, -- then mourned for all!

A man was starving in Capri;
He moved his eyes and looked at me;
I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,
And knew his hunger as my own.
I saw at sea a great fog bank
Between two ships that struck and sank;
A thousand screams the heavens smote;
And every scream tore through my throat.

No hurt I did not feel, no death
That was not mine; mine each last breath
That, crying, met an answering cry
From the compassion that was I.
All suffering mine, and mine its rod;
Mine, pity like the pity of God.

Ah, awful weight! Infinity
Pressed down upon the finite Me!
My anguished spirit, like a bird,
Beating against my lips I heard;
Yet lay the weight so close about
There was no room for it without.
And so beneath the weight lay I
And suffered death, but could not die.

Long had I lain thus, craving death,
When quietly the earth beneath
Gave way, and inch by inch, so great
At last had grown the crushing weight,
Into the earth I sank till I
Full six feet under ground did lie,
And sank no more, -- there is no weight
Can follow here, however great.
From off my breast I felt it roll,
And as it went my tortured soul
Burst forth and fled in such a gust
That all about me swirled the dust.

Deep in the earth I rested now;
Cool is its hand upon the brow
And soft its breast beneath the head
Of one who is so gladly dead.
And all at once, and over all
The pitying rain began to fall;
I lay and heard each pattering hoof
Upon my lowly, thatched roof,
And seemed to love the sound far more
Than ever I had done before.
For rain it hath a friendly sound
To one who's six feet underground;
And scarce the friendly voice or face:
A grave is such a quiet place.

The rain, I said, is kind to come
And speak to me in my new home.
I would I were alive again
To kiss the fingers of the rain,
To drink into my eyes the shine
Of every slanting silver line,
To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze
From drenched and dripping apple-trees.
For soon the shower will be done,
And then the broad face of the sun
Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth
Until the world with answering mirth
Shakes joyously, and each round drop
Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.

How can I bear it; buried here,
While overhead the sky grows clear
And blue again after the storm?
O, multi-colored, multiform,
Beloved beauty over me,
That I shall never, never see
Again! Spring-silver, autumn-gold,
That I shall never more behold!
Sleeping your myriad magics through,
Close-sepulchred away from you!
O God, I cried, give me new birth,
And put me back upon the earth!
Upset each cloud's gigantic gourd
And let the heavy rain, down-poured
In one big torrent, set me free,
Washing my grave away from me!

I ceased; and through the breathless hush
That answered me, the far-off rush
Of herald wings came whispering
Like music down the vibrant string
Of my ascending prayer, and -- crash!
Before the wild wind's whistling lash
The startled storm-clouds reared on high
And plunged in terror down the sky,
And the big rain in one black wave
Fell from the sky and struck my grave.

I know not how such things can be;
I only know there came to me
A fragrance such as never clings
To aught save happy living things;
A sound as of some joyous elf
Singing sweet songs to please himself,
And, through and over everything,
A sense of glad awakening.
The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,
Whispering to me I could hear;
I felt the rain's cool finger-tips
Brushed tenderly across my lips,
Laid gently on my sealed sight,
And all at once the heavy night
Fell from my eyes and I could see, --
A drenched and dripping apple-tree,
A last long line of silver rain,
A sky grown clear and blue again.
And as I looked a quickening gust
Of wind blew up to me and thrust
Into my face a miracle
Of orchard-breath, and with the smell, --
I know not how such things can be! --
I breathed my soul back into me.

Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I
And hailed the earth with such a cry
As is not heard save from a man
Who has been dead, and lives again.
About the trees my arms I wound;

Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;
I raised my quivering arms on high;
I laughed and laughed into the sky,
Till at my throat a strangling sob
Caught fiercely, and a great heart-throb
Sent instant tears into my eyes;
O God, I cried, no dark disguise
Can e'er hereafter hide from me
Thy radiant identity!

Thou canst not move across the grass
But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,
Nor speak, however silently,
But my hushed voice will answer Thee.
I know the path that tells Thy way
Through the cool eve of every day;
God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on Thy heart!

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, --
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat -- the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Saturday, April 17, 2004


I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled--
Some thousands--on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies;--
Death is but one and comes but once,
And only nails the eyes.

There's grief of want, and grief of cold,--
A sort they call 'despair;'
There's banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly, yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross,
Of those that stand alone,
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.

-Emily Dickinson

Friday, April 16, 2004

La Poésie à Clef:


Viens, mon beau chat, sur mon coeur amoureux;
Retiens les griffes de ta pate,
Et lasse-moi plonger dans tes beaux yeux,
Mêlés de métal et d'agate.

Lorsque mes doigts carressent à loisir
Ta tête et ton dos élastique,
Et que ma main s'enivre du plaisir
De palper ton corps électrique,

Je vois ma femme en esprit. Son regard,
Comme le tien, aimable bête,
Profond et froid, coupe et fend comme u n dard,

Et, des pieds jusques à la tête,
Un air subtil, un dangereux parfum
Nagent autour de son corps brun.



Come, my beautiful cat, rest on my loving breast;
Pull you claws back into your paw,
And let me dive into your lovely eyes,
Flecked with metal and agate.

While my fingers take their time in caressing
Your head and your elastic back,
And my hand grows drunk from the pleasure
Of touching your body electric.

I see my wife in spirit. Her gaze,
Like yours, agreeable beast,
Deep and cold, cuts and pierces like a dart,

And from toe to head,
A subtle feeling, a dangerous scent
Swims about her dusky body.

Any appreciation of cats worth its salt wouldn't be complete without at least one entry from Old Possum's, now, would it?

The Naming Of Cats
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Thomas Stearns Eliot

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I wonder, particularly, about my girl cat - she's an odd combination of grouchy and dainty. She doesn't seem terribly bright. Though her Christian name is Ampersand, we all call her the Angry Mop. She doesn't care for female humans (maul'd too many times by maids' fists?), but loves males to distraction. The best way I can describe her relationship with my roommate is, to quote another great literary figure, 'a love that goes against fate and ban.'


Cat! who hast pass'd thy grand climacteric,
How many mice and rats hast in thy days
Destroy'd?- How many tit bits stolen? Gaze
With those bright languid segments green, and prick
Those velvet ears- but pr'ythee do not stick
Thy latent talons in me- and upraise
Thy gentle mew- and tell me all thy frays
Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick.
Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists-
For all the wheezy asthma,- and for all
Thy tail's tip is nick'd off- and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,
Still is that fur as soft as when the lists
In youth thou enter'dst on glass-bottled wall.

-John Keats

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I'm a bit disappointed. I just received my National Poetry Month poster from the Academy of American Poets. (Yes, two weeks late, but what do you expect? Firstly, they're poets, not businesspeople. Secondly, you get what you pay for, and this was free.) Milton Glaser Designed this year's offering, and beautiful it is. The problem is, it's not very descriptive or evocative. In fact, one could argue that, given the word arrangement and the color scheme, it's rather difficult to read. Not very good if you're wanting to promote poetry or the reading of poetry.
It would stand to reason that, being a single female over 30, I'd have more than one cat, wouldn't it? I'm not the only one to revere my soft-pelted but prickly-personalitied companions, either.

The History of One Tough Motherfucker

he came to the door one night wet thin beaten and
a white cross-eyed tailless cat
I took him in and fed him and he stayed
grew to trust me until a friend drove up the driveway
and ran him over
I took what was left to a vet who said,"not much
chance...give him these pills...his backbone
is crushed, but is was crushed before and somehow
mended, if he lives he'll never walk, look at
these x-rays, he's been shot, look here, the pellets
are still there...also, he once had a tail, somebody
cut it off..."

I took the cat back, it was a hot summer, one of the
hottest in decades, I put him on the bathroom
floor, gave him water and pills, he wouldn't eat, he
wouldn't touch the water, I dipped my finger into it
and wet his mouth and I talked to him, I didn't go any-
where, I put in a lot of bathroom time and talked to
him and gently touched him and he looked back at
me with those pale blue crossed eyes and as the days went
by he made his first move
dragging himself forward by his front legs
(the rear ones wouldn't work)
he made it to the litter box
crawled over and in,
it was like the trumpet of possible victory
blowing in that bathroom and into the city, I
related to that cat-I'd had it bad, not that
bad but bad enough

one morning he got up, stood up, fell back down and
just looked at me.

"you can make it," I said to him.

he kept trying, getting up falling down, finally
he walked a few steps, he was like a drunk, the
rear legs just didn't want to do it and he fell again, rested,
then got up.

you know the rest: now he's better than ever, cross-eyed
almost toothless, but the grace is back, and that look in
his eyes never left...

and now sometimes I'm interviewed, they want to hear about
life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed,
shot, runover de-tailed cat and I say,"look, look
at this!"

but they don't understand, they say something like,"you
say you've been influenced by Celine?"

"no," I hold the cat up,"by what happens, by
things like this, by this, by this!"

I shake the cat, hold him up in
the smoky and drunken light, he's relaxed he knows...

it's then that the interviews end
although I am proud sometimes when I see the pictures
later and there I am and there is the cat and we are photo-
graphed together.

he too knows it's bullshit but that somehow it all helps.

-Charles Bukowski

Here's a bit of catblogging, too.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Let's hear it for Opening Day! We weren't able to go to Friday's game, but on Sunday, Hal caught a few innings at Fenway. He made it home maybe halfway through the game, though, since it was so cold out. We listened to the rest on Sports Radio.

Happily, at the bottom of the 12th, Ortiz took the advice I hollered at the radio and sent one over the Monster. The Sox beat the Jays 6-4.

I know that it's too early in the season to be jaded or disillusioned, and I'm not. But to be a Sox fan is to be a fatalist. I'll always love them, but I'm prepared to have my heart broken.

Casey at the Bat

(A Ballad of the Republic. Sung in the Year 1888).

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought if only Casey could but get a whack at that --
We'd put up even money now with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake.
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat.
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Johnnie safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place,
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped --
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, bleak with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm waves on a worn and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone in the stands,
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and the echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clinched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh! somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville -- mighty Casey has struck out.

-Ernest Lawrence Thayer
When Pablo mentioned the sonnet #130 from the Dark Lady series - my mind immediately flew to this 'hymn' Neruda wrote to his wife. There is no flowery language, no hyperbole in describing her, just like Shakespeare's work. She is not the most beautiful in the world, certainly not perfect. Just perfect for him. Yes, I'll admit it. My heart flutters when I read these words.

La Reina

Yo te he nombrado reina.
Hay mas altas que tu, mas altas.
Hay mas puras que tu, mas puras.
Hay mas bellas que tu, hay mas bellas.
Pero tu eres la reina.

Cuando vas por las calles
nadie te reconoce.
Nadie ve tu corona
de cristal, nadie mira
la alfombra de oro rojo
que pisas donde pasas,
la alfombra que no existe.

Y cuando asomas
suenan todos los ríos
de mi cuerpo, sacuden
el cielo las campanas,
y un himno llena el mundo.

Solo tu y yo,
solo tu y yo,
amor mio,
lo escuchamos.

-Pablo Neruda

The Queen

I have named you Queen.
There are others higher than you, higher.
There are others purer than you, purer.
There are others more beautiful than you, more beautiful.

But you are the queen.

When you wander the streets,
no one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown. No one sees
the carpet of red-gold that you step on
when you pass by.
The carpet that does not exist.

And when you appear,
Ripples form in all the rivers in my body.
Bells rattle the skies
And a hymn of praise fills the world.

Only you and I,
Only you and I, My Love,
Hear it.

-my translation
First is another Shakespeare Sonnet with commentary from Pablo.

One of the "Dark Lady" sonnets, which are about an infatuation with a woman who is alluring but not conventionally beautiful. A satire disavowing the conventional hyperboles of sonneteering (which the poet nonetheless indulges in elsewhere). See Sonnet 21 for another such satire.

To understand the last line, read "she" as a noun meaning "a female," so that "any she" is the object of "belied."

More commentary on this sonnet.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.
Easter sort of trumped everything this weekend, so you're getting a three-fer today! Happy Monday! Happy Spring!

Friday, April 09, 2004

The First Dandelion

Simple and fresh and fair from winter's close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter'd grass--innocent, golden, calm
as the dawn,
The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face.

-Walt Whitman

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Beautiful spring morning! The garden still looks like piles of rocky soil - only with green whiskers everywhere. I have one tomato seedling and several prospective portulacas. Was comparing notes with my friend Bob in Birmingham (I have nothing on him in this realm) and he mentioned that he's got salad greens started as well some emerging asparagus. Oh, to be in England!

"As far as your poetry project, how about some Kipling? This is one of my favourite poems (incidentally set to music by the late Peter Bellamy) and an excellent potted history of rural England…

The Land

When Julius Fabricius, Sub-Prefect of the Weald,
In the days of Diocletian owned our Lower River-field,
He called to him Hobdenius—a Briton of the Clay,
Saying: “What about that River-piece for layin’ in to hay?”
And the aged Hobden answered: “I remember as a lad
My father told your father that she wanted dreenin’ bad.
An’ the more that you neeglect her the less you’ll get her clean.
Have it jest as you’ve a mind to, but, if I was you, I’d dreen.”

So they drained it long and crossways in the lavish Roman style—
Still we find among the river-drift their flakes of ancient tile,
And in drouthy middle August, when the bones of meadows show,
We can trace the lines they followed sixteen hundred years ago.

Then Julius Fabricius died as even Prefects do,
And after certain centuries, Imperial Rome died too.
Then did robbers enter Britain from across the Northern main
And our Lower River-field was won by Ogier the Dane.

Well could Ogier work his war-boat—well could Ogier wield his brand—
Much he knew of foaming waters—not so much of farming land.
So he called to him a Hobden of the old unaltered blood,
Saying: “What about that River-piece, she doesn’t look no good?”

And that aged Hobden answered: “’Tain’t for me to interfere,
But I’ve known that bit o’ meadow now for five and fifty year.
Have it jest as you’ve a mind to, but I’ve proved it time on time,
If you want to change her nature you have got to give her lime!”

Ogier sent his wains to Lewes, twenty hours’ solemn walk,
And drew back great abundance of the cool, grey, healing chalk.
And old Hobden spread it broadcast, never heeding what was in ’t.
Which is why in cleaning ditches, now and then we find a flint.

Ogier died. His sons grew English—Anglo-Saxon was their name—
Till out of blossomed Normandy another pirate came;
For Duke William conquered England and divided with his men,
And our Lower River-field he gave to William of Warenne.

But the Brook (you know her habit) rose one rainy autumn night
And tore down sodden flitches of the bank to left and right.
So, said William to his Bailiff as they rode their dripping rounds:
“Hob, what about that River-bit—the Brook’s got up no bounds?”

And that aged Hobden answered: “’Tain’t my business to advise,
But ye might ha’ known ’twould happen from the way the valley lies.
Where ye can’t hold back the water you must try and save the sile.
Hev it jest as you’ve a mind to, but, if I was you, I’d spile!”

They spiled along the water-course with trunks of willowtrees
And planks of elms behind ’em and immortal oaken knees.
And when the spates of Autumn whirl the gravel-beds away
You can see their faithful fragments iron-hard in iron clay.

. . . . .
Georgii Quinti Anno Sexto, I, who own the River-field,
Am fortified with title-deeds, attested, signed and sealed,
Guaranteeing me, my assigns, my executors and heirs
All sorts of powers and profits which—are neither mine nor theirs.
I have rights of chase and warren, as my dignity requires.
I can fish—but Hobden tickles. I can shoot—but Hobden wires.
I repair, but he reopens, certain gaps which, men allege,
Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.

Shall I dog his morning progress o’er the track-betraying dew?
Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew?
Confiscate his evening faggot under which the conies ran,
And summons him to judgment? I would sooner summons Pan.

His dead are in the churchyard—thirty generations laid.
Their names were old in history when Domesday Book was made.
And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line
Have seeded, rooted, fruited in some land the Law calls mine.

Not for any beast that burrows, not for any bird that flies,
Would I lose his large sound council, miss his keen amending eyes.
He is bailiff, woodman, wheelwright, field-surveyor, engineer,
And if flagrantly a poacher—’tain’t for me to interfere.

“Hob, what about that River-bit?” I turn to him again,
With Fabricius and Ogier and William of Warenne.
“Hev it jest as you’ve a mind to, but”—and here he takes command.
For whoever pays the taxes old Mus’ Hobden owns the land.

-Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Now that the weather has improved considerably, may I suggest a wander around the Charles? There are treasures to be found there.

Here is but one that I came across during one of my constitutionals:

in Just

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and



balloonMan whistles

--ee cummings (1894 - 1962)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Well, he was a master in his native tongue.


Thou knowst how heappily they Friend
Walks upon florid Ways;
Thou knowst how heavens bounteous hand
Leads him to golden days.

But hah! a cruel enemy
Destroies all that Bless;
In Moments of Melancholy
Flies all my Happiness.

Then fogs of doubt do fill my mind
With deep obscurity;
I search myself, and cannot find
A spark of Worth in me.

When tender friends to, tender kiss,
Run up with open arms;
I think I merit not that bliss
That like a kiss me warmeth.

Hah! when my child, I love thee, sayd,
And gave the kiss I sought;
Then I - forgive me tender maid-
She is a false one, thought.

She cannot love a peevish boy,
She with her godlike face.
O could I, friend, that thought destroy.
It leads the golden days.

And other thought is misfortune
Is death and night to me:
I hum no supportable tune,
I can no poet be.

When to the Altar of the Nine
A triste incense I bring,
I beg let Poetry be mine
O Sistres let me sing.

But when they then my prayer not hear
I break my wispring lyre;
Then from my eyes runns down a tear,
Extinguish th'incensed fire.

Then curse I, Freind, the fated sky,
And from th'altar I fly;
And to my Freinds aloud I cry
Be happier than I.

-Johann Wolfgang Goethe

This sort of makes me feel better about the bad poetry of my youth in another language.

Monday, April 05, 2004

This Monday is filled with longing. Longing for that lost hour. Longing for another day to one's self. Longing for warmth, sun, waves crashing on the sand at your toes. While I go and indulge myself in thoughts of these things, I'll leave the word to my friend Pablo:

I consider William Shakespeare's sonnet number 50 to be one of the great ones. It's one of the more accessible, with little that reads as archaic now. It's a simple but powerful evocation of the sadness of separation from another who is one's "all-the-world" (as Sonnet 112 says).

It's also about the empathy that even our animals can have for our own moods. I've never ridden a horse, but I've had pets who can tell when I'm down.

More commentary on this sonnet.

How heavy do I journey on the way,
When what I seek, my weary travel's end,
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
'Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend!'
The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,
As if by some instinct the wretch did know
His rider lov'd not speed being made from thee.
The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,
That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,
Which heavily he answers with a groan,
More sharp to me than spurring to his side;
For that same groan doth put this in my mind,
My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Uhg! Cramps! Moody! Chocolated-out. Last week I felt like a fertility goddess. Now, I am woman, hear me roar. What a difficult month it's been. About the only thing that will make up for this is blood tribute. Blood for my tears. Blood for my pain. Blood for my blood.

The Female of the Species.

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail,
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag, the wayside cobra, hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can,
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail -
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws -
'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale -
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the others tale -
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations, worm and savage otherwise,
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise;
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger; Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue - to the scandal of the Sex!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same,
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity - must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions - not in these her honor dwells -
She, the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else!

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate;
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions - in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him, who denies!
He will meet no cool discussion, but the instant, white-hot wild
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges - even so the she-bear fights;
Speech that drips, corrodes and poisons - even so the cobra bites;
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw,
And the victim writhes with anguish - like the Jesuit with the squaw!

So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of abstract justice - which no woman understands.

And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern; shall enthrall but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him and Her instincts never fail,
That the female of Her species is more deadly than the male!

-Rudyard Kipling

Saturday, April 03, 2004

I am an early riser. Was up this Saturday morning at 6:00 am. Knitted some, padded around, wrote a letter. Finally gave into what I really wanted to do: dig in the dirt. Checked out my crocuses, tulips, irises, chives: all early bloomers. Planted my peas, as they love the cold.

I am a late bloomer, however. I'm only just starting to get a notion of what I am, what I like, what I want to do with myself. Much as I love the early buds and blooms, I sympathize more with the second crop of lettuce, the squash, the kale, the lavender, the gentian:

Fringed Gentian

God made a little gentian;
It tried to be a rose
And failed, and all the summer laughed.
But just before the snows
There came a purple creature
That ravished all the hill;
And summer hid her forehead,
And mockery was still.
The frosts were her condition;
The Tyrian would not come
Until the North evoked it.
"Creator! shall I bloom?"

-Emily Dickinson

Friday, April 02, 2004

I have a little tradition: I like to go to the beach on my Birthday in January. On calm days, with just the cold light, the cutting breeze and me, it's a good place to organize my thoughts. On wilder ones, the crashing waves, the wind, the steel gray sky seem to be great agents of cleansing my mind for the upcoming year.

For so many years, I lived in landlocked country near two great lakes. Here, I get the Atlantic. Though I love the former place, I don't know if it could ever measure up the coast and the Ocean - immeasurably huge, horrifying in its destructiveness but comforting in its indifference to me. Swimming isn't a possibility for me, not now, not yet. I'm too frightened. I will, however, dip my toes in or take a taste. That all seems safe enough.

Then there's that smell. I long for that cool, watery, salty smell that comes on the breezes even as far inland as across town. It's gotten into my blood, I'm afraid. It's now a craving, a physical need.

El Mar

Un solo ser, pero no hay sangre.
Una sola caricia, muerte o rosa.
Viene el mar y reune nuestras vidas
y solo ataca y se reparte y canta
en noche y dia y hombre y criatura.
La esencia: fuego y frio: movimiento.

-Pablo Neruda

The Sea

A single entity, but no blood.
A single caress, death or a rose.
The sea comes in a nd puts our lives together
and attacks alone and spreads itself and sings
in nights and days and men and living creatures.
Its essence - fire and cold; movement, movement.

-translation by Alastair Reid

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I was thinking on opening with either some Whitman (a flowery, wordy Salut au Monde) or Neruda (something sparse but springlike).

Then it hit me on my walk to work. What a novel idea of spring we have here in New England. Wandering down the streets in my lined raincoat, wool hat, gloves, highwaters, face unprotected from the still cutting wind and icy spitting - I was thinking of April showers bringing May flowers as well as April ice storms killing early buds. This was a brutal winter. It's still holding on, but its grasp feels like it's loosening a bit. I'm hopeful. But I'm not giving up the winter mindset just yet:

The Snowman

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Wallace Stevens

Happy Spring, happy start of Poetry month, and happy April Fools Day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

In case you were wondering - I'm a girl. I'm in my early thirties. I live and work just to the north of Boston, MA. I am neither a poet nor a writer, though I understand enough to appreciate what I consider good poetry and prose. I am a bureaucrat, plain and simple. April is a treat to me, not only for the change of seasons, but for the excuse it gives me to impose my love of poetry (and pontification on poetry) on others. If you're not into that, there're plenty of other places to take your business.

I do have another blog where I write mainly on the petit train-train of my existence. There's a fair amount on music, knitting, film, politics. Please feel free to visit that if you'd like.
Welcome to my little poetry corner. I hope you enjoy this offering for National Poetry Month. Please feel free to discuss any of the entries - that's what they're there for. Although I'm just posting what moves me at the time, I do take requests. If you have any suggestions, please do send me a note. I'd love to hear from you!